Short films make mark at 2015 Kampala festival

Friday April 15 2016

Bwanika Felix (R) and Prynce Okuyo (L) were

Bwanika Felix (R) and Prynce Okuyo (L) were impressive in their roles by The Test and In Reality respectively. COURTESY PHOTO 

By Douglas D.Sebamala

These are films that made rounds on the international scene, showed at festivals beyond Uganda and kick -started a movement that is raising more film makers.
The founder and curator of KSFF, Moses Serugo as an Alumnus of the Maisha Film lab said “One of my fellow students at Maisha, Joel Karyekezi started off with a short film, The Pardon which he later workshopped into an award winning feature “Imbabazi- The Pardon” about the Rwanda Genocide.” It showcased at the Women’s film festival in June 2015.
Apart from being an experimental ground, film makers like Karyekezi, use short films to find a footing in the industry and pitch for bigger projects. Among the 10 films that showed at KSFF, however, there are those notable works that impressed.

Trash Cash
This documentary like short film shares the story of a street child whose life’s survival is from selling scrap picked from bins and garbage around Kampala. It is the kind of story that emotionally draws you in as you sympathise with the boy, yet his playful character makes you laugh despite his very precarious situation. It made it to the Africa International Film Festival.
The Director of Photography, Daniel Ocwalu, follows him around with his friends. The irony of this child on the street dreaming of becoming a lawyer someday to defend the defenseless is numbing. He ran away from home after his step mother burnt him with a red hot spoon from a charcoal stove. He wishes he too could enjoy life like other children with parents, but is certain never return to his father’s home for fear of abuse, and unlike others who roam the streets and steal, he chooses to sell scrap to survive on that one meal a day.

Silent Depression
Showcasing at numerous international (Kenya, USA, India, Polland) festivals, Battle Nes-G’s film has an interesting twist to storytelling. Using spoken word performances by Malcom Kawooya, this film tackles the impact of social media and technology on the relation among young people today.
The cinematography goes a long way in telling this story, sharp close ups of mobile phones and different faces...what begun off as a documentary like shoot developed into one of Uganda’s best sold and performed works of art. Nes got the idea out of furry following a set where his whole crew were stuck on their mobile phones instead of accomplishing tasks that were allocated them on set.

Saving the best for last, this film by Gary Mugisha closed the festival. It has excellent cinematography, perfected by impressive acting from Nisha Kalema (Best Actress at UFF 2015). She drove the story. Plans for a night out instead yield a trail of misfortunes when her sister calls in sick. Her phone is robbed, she is nearly gang raped, arrested by police night patrol who mistake her for a whore and while she buys her way out of prison, she ends up at a lodge being traded for sex at only Shs100,000.
The producer and director played very well with suspense and tension in scenes like when she is waiting by the road side after escaping the lodge. She ends up in a car with a stranger who matches the description over the radio that a serial killer with a scarred forehead in Ntinda area is on the loose. This is shortly after she kills a known friend in self-defense, one in the occult of human sacrifice.

In Reality
Douglas Benda Kasule’s film handles the irony of a doctor (Prynce Okuyo) who fabricates HIV results for a girl he is sleeping with. What he does not know it is the same girl that his son (Kasule) is dating. After seeking advice from his father consistently about him and his girl testing for HIV, he persuades him to have her test.
The girlfriend on receiving her results as HIV positive demands that the nurse produces a new slip ‘showing negative’ and she is willing to pay for it. The film records UN’s report that several HIV results in Uganda are faked, a phenomena owing to corruption in this country. If academic degrees at institutions are bought too, how about HIV results that imply a matter of life and death.
The cinematography is as good as the story, the silhouette of the doctor as he talks to his son at the beginning keeps the mystery until son finds father right after intercourse with ‘their’ girlfriend. It is told in a narrative rather different from previously done moralist HIV films. Usage of narrations by the doctor (Okuyo) guides the story and shifts the blame.

We often forget that the little children around us emulate everything that we do. A popular Luganda saying “Enyonyi Enkulu yeyigiriza Ento Okubuuka” which when translated means “It is the older bird that teaches the young ones to fly”, was the gist of this film. The film presents a girl as the reflection of her mother’s dress code and whatever that represents.
Her mother (Doreen Mirembe) is sitting before a mirror making up and fitting into her short black dress. Her daughter makes rounds between both their rooms and asks for scissors only to trim her skirt into a very skimpy mini outfit.
She later parades before her mother; all made up with thick red lipstick, a short jean skirt and white flip flops with glitter.

This film showed how Ugandan audiences are easily excited by sexuality. Tending more to a feature, this chronicles the life a 22-year-old Wande, a student of Law. Her peers encourage her to get into a relationship with a persistent suitor. However, he does not use a condom on their first sexual encounter that she ends up pregnant.
The story is a common one and its execution could have been better. The acting was alright, though there were really plastic moments from Wande’s mates. The suitor’s male friend was a comic relief with interesting punch lines in what for a good part of the film seemed rather laughable.
The sound is not good clustering noise especially for outdoor scenes. Producer Gerald Namanya Rugaba and director Kevin Byaruhanga have plenty to learn to make better works.

A Dog Story
The chase in the forest that starts this film shows interesting scenery. Doreen Mirembe, both director and actor in this one flees from her captor and forced husband (Michael Wawuyo JR.). Their pair creates fine acting, with Wawuyo playing villain, a rebel who is in love with this woman despite his evil self. However, he tries to give the character a tonation in accent that does not successfully sustain; rather articulate, but for an actor who received the script that very day of shooting, he was brilliant. Mirembe shows a believable state of fear, and while he narrates to her the story of his father’s dog, Labong Macher, rubbing his gun agitatedly, she scuffles in fear. This dog had always been kicked and tortured by its master (a reference to the woman herself). It culminates into a bullet that merely scruffs her right thigh. Her bid to leave him, to set her free ends with a gun in her hand, and bullet to his head- her only form of escape.

Drawn Together
This Kennedy Kihire film was among the shorter films after Mirror. It tackles the subject of alcohol and drugs. Andrew Mutebi acts as a drunk man found dead asleep at the front gate of a psychiatrist’s home. The psychiatrist urges him to walk past his alcoholism as it would destroy his life. The secret to his own end to drugs was and alcohol is a pill that he had been given while on a flight. He shares the last pill with Mutebi on condition that the pill kills him if he drinks again. A quick way to solve addiction.

The Test
Is a staged birthday surprise for Achi (Wawuyo JR.) Tricked by his wife (Momo Jacobs) and work mate (Bwanika Felix). He anxiously runs home after a prank call from his wife pretending to be in danger. A coarse rough voice from a TV orders him to kill three people kidnapped and held captive in his house, his secretary, mother in law and his brother.
Wawuyo JR impressed in this role as he maintains a scared, helpless character who would do anything to save his wife from the hands of her capture. However, he is willing to forgive despite the lie of his brother sleeping with his wife. The three captives are all in on this trick which climaxes into the death of his secretary and is resolved by his wife’s return and the news of her pregnancy. Everything is smoothened with a birthday cake.
However, the test is rather far-fetched, that one would doubt whether one would go to that extreme to surprise a loved one on their birthday. Sarah Nakimuli said “I would never forgive them if they did something that foolish to me. Even though that would not happen in real life it was a really nice movie to watch”

Pregnant Woman Stabs Husband to Death
Ending with woman clad in the yellow prison uniform, this story chronicles the life of many women abused by drunk husbands. However, its dramatic twist is in the fact that she takes the fall for her child who stabs the father dead. He had beaten the kid thoroughly to the point that he was afraid of him. The child stabs him in the back as he batters his pregnant mother. It is the work of Malcom Bijemano, tackling domestic violence and triggering questions about child safety and justice.